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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • SIU Commentary: What does 4-1 start actually mean?

  • Improved Salukis already halfway to last year’s win total
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  • With SIU’s 2012-13 basketball season just one-sixth of the way completed, Barry Hinson’s first year with the Salukis has produced half as many victories — four — as last year’s 8-23 club.
    SIU won, 57-54, Wednesday night over a decent Fresno State team which took a 3-2 record into the game.  That in itself doesn’t mean that the season is going to result in any kind of a championship run or even a first-division finish in the Missouri Valley Conference.  However, the Salukis are definitely improved.
    Even the manner in which they added win No. 4 was impressive.  After a slightly boring first half which ended 26-21 thanks to a Desmar Jackson’s long-range three at the horn, the game switched to a well-played, exciting second half which Jackson again finished up with a game-winning three-pointer.
    Jackson, the Wyoming transfer, scored 25 of SIU’s 57-point total while Jeff Early, SIU’s other early-season leader, had 14 on 7-of-11 shooting.  Together they were 16-of-27 from the floor and the Salukis can force Valley opponents to take notice with those kind of numbers.
    So what does the 4-1 start really mean?  It’s still early, but how exciting for staff and players, as well as SIU’s fans, if the Salukis could match last season’s wins total going into the Valley opener Dec. 30 at Missouri State.  That would require winning four of their next six games and may be difficult for the Salukis who are facing a true test in their next outing at Western Kentucky.
    When Hinson took over SIU’s basketball program it was at its lowest … ever.  Who knows for certain how long it’ll take to turn it around.
    Just reviewing SIU’s modern basketball history, there have been only two, perhaps three, times when the program has been in such disarray.
    Jack Hartman’s last season in 1970 was just so-so with a 13-10 record and Paul Lambert struggled somewhat with 13-10, 10-16 and 11-15 years before finally getting the Salukis back on track with a 19-7 mark in 1974 and adding on four more productive seasons before departing for Auburn.
    Joe Gottfried’s three years (1980, ‘81 and ‘82) were rough and his final season ended with an 18-game losing streak.  Yet Allen Van Winkle turned things around in just his second year before leaving following a stormy four-year stay (49-47).
    That’s when Rich Herrin stepped up from the prep ranks to revive SIU with only a handful of players who barely had any collegiate experience.  It took three seasons as the Salukis were fortunate to finish with an 8-20 record in 1986 before improving to 12-17 and 12-16 the next two years. 
    Page 2 of 2 - Herrin’s next seven seasons have been well documented ... all winding up with post-season tournament appearances, before his program also slipped to just-below .500 records three years in a row and set the stage for Bruce Weber’s move to Carbondale.  Weber’s first team was just 15-10, but the program he inherited was nothing like what Herrin had taken over 13 years previously.  Weber’s success, like Herrin’s, also has been well-told as have been Chris Lowery’s first four successful seasons following Matt Painter’s brief, one-year, stay when the Salukis were at a 25-5 high.
    That’s when the chaos began, however — 2008 — and continued, at worsening degrees, for the next three years.
    Enter Barry Hinson and we’ll try to be patient and understanding as the projected miracle worker polishes his wand.

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